Dancing in the No-fly Zone: A Woman's Journey Through Iraq
, 2006 - Iraq
- 256 pages
When Hadani Ditmars first went to Iraq in 1997 for the New York Times, she was shocked at what she saw. Six years of the worst sanctions ever inflicted on a modern nation had brought the people to their knees. Yet there was so much more to the "cradle of civilization" than misery and suffering. In the midst of despair she found art, beauty, architecture, music. She discovered orchestras who played impassioned symphonies on wrecked instruments, playwrights who pushed the limits of censorship, artists who spent their last dinars on paint and canvas, families who still celebrated weddings by dancing to makam--traditional love songs.Ditmars travelled to Iraq again and again, reporting on every aspect of life. In September 2003, she returned to Baghdad to find the people she had met over the years and see what had become of them since the U.S. "liberation." Dancing In The No-Fly Zone is the story of that trip, interwoven with tales from her earlier visits and of the people she met along the way: actors and artists, mercenaries and businessmen, street kids and sufis, even the "king in waiting." It includes a visit to Abu Ghraib prison, in which Ditmars is given a tour of the Saddam-era execution chamber by the U.S.general who was later dismissed after the abuse scandal broke.As the situation worsens and the violence intensifies, Ditmars spends a miraculous evening with a group of Iraqis who sing and dance along to a performance of makam. A people who have suffered so much yet maintain such resilience deserve to have the full depth of their humanity portrayed. Hadani Ditmars captures this spirit in Dancing in the No-Fly Zone.As Iraq continues to weather violent occupation, theocratic thuggism and civil strife, Ditmarsí book serves as an eerily prescient tribute to a culture and a people at the breaking point.Hadani Ditmars is an international journalist based in Canada whose work has been published in The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Independent, The Globe and Mail, Vanity Fair, and Vogue, and broadcast on the BBC and CBC radio and television. Her Ms. Magazine essay on Iraqi women has been adopted for many university courses. She has been reporting from the Middle East since 1992 and has been on assignment to Iraq six times since 1997. Ditmars, an independent reporter whose mixed European and Middle Eastern ancestry often allowed her to pass as an Iraqi, dared to traverse the distance that separates most Western journalists from their subjects, traveling between two cultural worlds in sometimes dangerous and revealing ways. Unlike her male colleagues, her gender also allowed her a connection with Iraqi women, whose struggle she continues to voice.